Falls Carry a Heavy Cost for Seniors
Mrs. M. was carrying a basket of laundry down to the basement. Her foot slipped on the steps and she went head-first landing at the bottom of the staircase on the concrete. She had broken her leg and hip and could not move. She laid there for a day and a half before someone found her. As a result, she is now in an assisted living center. Mr. V. fell in his bathtub and lay on the bottom for two days before EMS came. He had severe pressure sores, hypothermia and never recovered from his fall. Here are some famous people who died from falls: George Burns, David Brinkley, Katherine Graham and David Atkins. Despite wealth and being famous, a simple fall brought them down. It is no wonder, many seniors have a fear of falling.
Let’s review some of the statistics about falling?
- The mortality rate from falls has been determined to be 67% when lie times were more than 72 hours as opposed to 12% when lie times were less than one hour.
- Of the patients who were found alive, 62% were hospitalized and approximately half required intensive care.
- Over 13.3 million people 65 years and older will fall this year…that’s every 2.3 seconds on average.
- About half of older adults cannot get back up without help.
- Falls account for over 60% of all nonfatal injuries in the ER in the 65+ group
- This group is 3 times more likely to required hospitalization than a younger person.
- Fall risk is highest during the first two weeks after discharge from the hospital as compared to three months later.
- Older adults with diabetes have a higher rage of falling than the general population.
- Of all nursing home admissions, 40% are related to falls
- Of those who break a hip:
- – 90% were caused by a fall
- – 50% will become dependent upon a cane or walker
- – 40% will require nursing home admission
- – 20% will die in one year
**These statistics were taken from The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website.
What are the risk factors for a fall?
- History of falls
- Arthritis, Diabetes, Parkinson’s
- Problems with gait & balance
- Visual deficits
- Environmental causes
- Medications (4+)
- Familiar behaviors that are now unsafe
What can a person do to counter their possibility of falling?
Falls can be prevented by initiating a fall prevention program. Some of the elements of this program address:
1. Balance problems
2. Mobility issues
3. Multiple medications
4. Low blood pressure
5. Sensory deficits
6. Home hazards
Ask yourself these two important questions:
1. If you were to fall tonight, would you be able to get up?
2. If you were injured and couldn’t get up, how would you get help?
What You Can Do:
There are many things that you can do to prevent falls.
- Exercise 3-4 times per week using a mix of low-impact, weight lifting and core building, and stretching.
- If you have had a fall, consider getting an emergency response system that will allow you to obtain help if you need it. There are systems that will detect falls whether you can press the button or not.
- Do a home safety check and remove items that could pose a fall hazard. i.e. loose throw rugs, stacks of items on the floor, cords in traffic patterns, etc.
- Get physical therapy if you notice your gait changing. Gait is predictive of future mobility problems.
You can be proactive in avoiding unnecessary falls and preserve your independence and autonomy.